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Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

5 Reasons to be Forgiving and Patient with Your Spouse

5 Reasons to be Forgiving and Patient with Your Spouse

She was temperamental on that particular afternoon. With too little sleep the night before and too much stress, my wife Christie was a bit edgy. I could sense that she was not as easygoing as usual. I was tempted to react to her but thought better of it.

That said, I’ve had my days as well. I can certainly pile too much on my plate and then complain when the deadlines loom near. I can procrastinate and then complain loudly. At those times I am reactive and unusually touchy.

In each situation my wife and I have a policy: Look around our faults. This is not my best self!

What do I mean by this? How can you “see around someone’s faults?” Actually, it’s a bit of a trick, but will offer you grand results. When you “see around someone’s faults,” you see another’s behavior as an expression of something deeper taking place. You are only seeing “part” of them—not the best part, to be sure.

The codependency treatment folks say it like this: “Observe, don’t absorb.” Take a step back, seeing your mate with generosity and patience. Not always easy, but always helpful. Their behavior usually has little to do with you, I remind myself.

Here is how one woman describes this exercise:

“When my husband comes home in the evening, the first thing I do is greet him warmly and then give him a little time to settle into the evening. He is sometimes irritable, sometimes cranky. Sometimes he’s had a great day. Either way, I see around his momentary mood. I treat him the way he wants to be treated. I see this as an act of loving him well.”

You might mistakenly see this as enabling bad behavior. That certainly is not the intent of this exercise. Rather, it is to recognize that we are not always on our best behavior. We are sometimes very, very human. Many times, in our humanness we are less than our best and our behavior has little to do with others. In other words, we cannot expect people to always be on their best behavior. We don’t expect that from us; we cannot expect it from others.

I recall a year ago my late father was acting particularly irritable. He was temperamental, critical and short-tempered. His mood seemed to be slipping and he seemed less able to be loving with others. He had gradually lost his typical happy demeanor. In the middle of it, I was at times insensitive and reactive to him. Yet, when I stood back, I considered the now-famous words, “Be kind to others, for they are fighting a fierce battle.”

Indeed, my mother had passed away several years earlier and he had never fully recovered. Married for nearly seventy years, he had lost his friend, lover and best friend. He often said, “I’m ready to go and see mom.” He missed her deeply and grew more tired by the day. He deserved the understanding I hope others will give to me on my worst days.

Consider some of the many benefits of “seeing around other’s faults.”  

One, people deserve our understanding. Yes, that’s true. People deserve our understanding. We must take time to step back, consider what they are going through and why they might be behaving the way they do. Are they under unusual stress? Are they fighting a fierce, inner battle? Be understanding. See around their faults.  

Two, people are more than their current behavior. We all are a composite of many parts. Our current behavior is simply one part of who we are. Consider that when your mate is irritable, this is an expression of something deeper taking place. What is it that they are unable to express directly and perhaps in a healthier manner? See around their faults.

Three, people can offer us understanding as well. The understanding you offer will often come back to you. The generosity and grace you offer will likely come back to you in other ways. People will see you as a grace-filled individual and treat you accordingly. Certainly you are needing the understanding others wish from you. See around their faults.  

Four, people need us to see their deeper issues. Irritability is often a manifestation of something deeper taking place. Take time to see people’s faults as a disguised expression of deeper pain. Care enough to love people well and see around their faults.

“Love is patient; love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13).

Finally, people will often behave according to our expectations. Have you noticed that people will often respond according to the way we treat them. If you dispense grace and patience, people often respond more favorably than if we treat them with impatience. We can, quite literally, encourage people to behave in a healthier way if we see around their faults. Help them share what is happening within them. They will often appreciate this act of kindness. See around their faults.    

If you would like to learn more about healthy relating, please go to our website, and discover more information about this topic, watching my video series, 30 Days to Relational Fitness. Pay close attention to the article, Therapeutic Healing Session, a useful tool for saving your marriage. Please send responses to me at and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

Publication date: February 10, 2015